Nance Dicciani, PhD, ’69 ChE

President and CEO of Honeywell International’s chemicals groups (retired)

Co-founder of RTM Vital Signs LLC

Nance Dicciani, PhD, ’69 ChE
Nance Dicciani, PhD, ’69 ChE

Q: What has been your career path since graduation from Villanova?

A: Immediately after graduating (and a road trip with sorority sisters throughout the southern US), I went to the University of Virginia with a plan to earn my PhD in Chemical Engineering, but stopped after my MS, anxious to get to work. For over three years I worked for the City of Philadelphia Water Department. Within months I was given complete responsibility for the city’s entire potable reservoir system, along with a group of about 15 people. It was a terrific job because I could get all the responsibility and leadership experience I wanted and I learned A LOT from the people I worked with, most of whom had not attended college and many whom had not attended high school. My learning curve flattened and I decided to go back to school for my PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. I graduated after 2 ½ years and although I intended to become an engineering professor, I felt a couple years of real world experience would make me a better teacher. I joined Air Products in Allentown in a manufacturing role. I thoroughly enjoyed my work and thoughts of teaching fell to the wayside.  My career at Air Products progressed rapidly through assignments in Engineering, R&D, commercial development and general management. During this time I earned an MBA from Wharton in the two-year executive program.

I left Air products for a VP/GM role at Rohm and Haas (now part of Dow Chemical) and eventually was fortunate enough to run several global businesses as well as having overall responsibility for company operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa – while living in Paris! After about 11 years, I joined Honeywell as president and CEO of the chemicals groups (former Allied Chemical). I retired from Honeywell in 2008, or specifically, I retired from “full time in one place.” I now serve as the Secretary of Villanova’s Board of Trustees, the co-Chair of Drexel’s Center for Corporate Governance and on the Executive Committee of the advisory board of the University Research Association in Washington DC which has oversight responsibility for the Fermi and Sandia Laboratories. I am currently a director of four public companies (Halliburton, Praxair, LyondellBasell and AgroFresh Solutions) and I am co-founder (along with Denise Devine ’77 VSB) of a start-up medical device company. 

I have had and continue to have a fabulous career!!!

Nance Dicciani, PhD, ’69 ChE, President and CEO of Honeywell International’s chemicals groups (retired) Co-founder of RTM Vital Signs LLC
Nance Dicciani, President and CEO of Honeywell International’s chemicals groups (retired) Co-founder of RTM Vital Signs LLC

Q: What was the highlight of your career?

A: That is a very tough question – I have had many successes and accomplishments throughout my career which have had positive impact on the companies I have worked for, but the most satisfying aspects of my long career have been, and continue to be, the opportunities I have had to help others in their careers, by taking bets on them, giving them stretch responsibilities and watching them grow and achieve on their own.  Many of them have made significant scientific contributions and many of them are now leading companies.

Q: How did your Villanova education contribute to your success?

A: There was a statement in my senior Belle Air Year Book – It was a good place to be, and an even better place to become. So very true!! From my very first day waiting in line to register for classes (number 2 pencil in hand!) in the old field house, and being approached by a man I never met (Doc White) who told me I would never graduate from Chemical Engineering as long as he was department head… to my final day waiting in line to enter that same field house on graduation day with Doc White telling me “I am proud of you!,” Villanova was a wonderful place for me to “become.” The professors who challenged me, the friends I made so many memories with, the Augustinian values of Veritas, Unitas, Caritas which made the culture of Villanova so special, all enabled me to “become” the person I am today.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

A: Goals are very important and the confidence to achieve them comes from inside yourself.  Confidence and determination are not attributes that some else bestows on you.  As Henry Ford once said—obstacles are those nasty things that you see when you take your eyes off your goals.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to the next generation of female engineers?

A: Dream big and never, never let anyone else put boundaries on what you can achieve, on what you can become.  Choose those things, both professionally and personally, that you enjoy, that you can learn from, and on which you can make a positive difference.